President Obama announced Friday that protection measures for gray wolves would be lifted in the continental United States, reports the AP.
Gray wolves were placed on the endangered species list since 1974.
Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said that the wolf population, which is now at around 6,100, has successfully rebounded from endangered status. Protections had already been lifted in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
After a close brush with extinction, wolf populations swiftly recovered in the Great Lakes region and were subsequently reintroduced into the northern rockies. Since then, thousands have been killed by government agents, as well as hunters.
Ranchers applaud the measure, as wolf attacks on their livestock could mean dozens of cattle killed in a single night. They’ve already seen an improvement in numbers of attacks in the areas that had the protection lifted earlier.
Some federal protection will remain in place for Mexican gray wolves, which inhabit the southwestern desert. That subspecies numbers only 73.
Many scientists, however think the move to lift protection is premature. Carlos Carroll of California’s Klamath Center for Conservation Research said, ‘‘They’ve tried to devise their political position first, and then cherry-pick their science to support it.”
However, Ashe is confident that it is safe to take wolves off the endangered list. “Does the wolf have to occupy all the habitat that is available to it in order for it to be recovered?” he said. “Our answer to that question is no.’’